Mamma Mia!

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Published: 13th July, 2018

It’s nearly 20 years since the Abba musical Mamma Mia! hit the international stage, and Australia welcomed this feel-good song and dance show in 2001. So the time is ripe for revisiting it, and this latest production touring Australia is just as good as the original, and has lost none of its charm and zest.

In a world where bad news makes more headlines than good news, there is room for a musical that celebrates friendship, compassion, respect—and fun!

Single mum Donna has done a great job in bringing up daughter Sophie on a Greek island where she runs a taverna, and now her little girl is getting married. But Donna has always evaded the question of Sophie’s dad, so young Sophie decides to read her Mum’s diary and invite all the likely candidates to her wedding, so that her Dad can give her away.

The scene is set for drama, mishaps and lots of humour, as well as a host of well-known Abba songs.

Mamma Mia! is a musical full of strong women who are not afraid to go after what they want, so it’s certainly about female empowerment, presented in a fun way with many laughs.

But the other element that I love so much about Mamma Mia!is that of the eight leads, six of them won’t see the salad days of their 30s again. It’s such a joy to see these brilliant stars of music theatre who have reached their more mature years but are the focus on the action. This is rare in musicals, and should be celebrated.

If a musical has you constantly smiling, tapping your feet and feeling happy, it has a lot going for it, and Mamma Miaachieves this in spades. There is no baddie in this musical, just good-hearted people who want the best out of life for everyone.

Getting this simple idea to work needs great casting, and director Gary Young gets it just right. There’s a neat twist that Natalie O’Donnell is playing mum Donna, having starred in the same show in 2001 as the juvenile lead Sophie, and it’s a great performance.

As ingénue Sophie, Sarah Morrison is a delight, her love interest Sky (Stephen Mahy) is a pleasure to watch and Donna’s feisty girlfriends, Alicia Gardiner (Rosie) and Jayde Westaby (Tanya) are great fun, while the trio of possible Dads, Ian Stenlake (Sam), Phillip Lowe (Harry) and Josef Ber (Bill) are terrific.

Hats off to a very busy and talented ensemble, with their inexhaustible energy—they even double as stagehands who shift props on and off, which gives the show a wonderful flow and the pace never lags.

Tom Hodgson’s choreography is snappy and showy, while musical director Michael Azzopardi leads a tight ensemble that certainly deserved their special bow on stage.

But in the tradition of leaving the best till last, it has to be said the encore is quite simply a showstopper, and will live in your memory for a very long time.

Mamma Mia! is a joyful show that will remind you that it’s good to be alive.